Malfunctioning Electronic Voting Machine Keeps Selecting Romney

A voter in Pennsylvania went to his polling place with his wife to cast his ballot. But when he went to select Obama for President, Romney kept being selected instead.

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I initially selected Obama but Romney was highlighted. I assumed it was being picky so I deselected Romney and tried Obama again, this time more carefully, and still got Romney. Being a software developer, I immediately went into troubleshoot mode. I first thought the calibration was off and tried selecting Jill Stein to actually highlight Obama. Nope. Jill Stein was selected just fine. Next I deselected her and started at the top of Romney’s name and started tapping very closely together to find the ‘active areas’. From the top of Romney’s button down to the bottom of the black checkbox beside Obama’s name was all active for Romney. From the bottom of that same checkbox to the bottom of the Obama button (basically a small white sliver) is what let me choose Obama. Stein’s button was fine. All other buttons worked fine.

I asked the voters on either side of me if they had any problems and they reported they did not. I then called over a volunteer to have a look at it. She him hawed for a bit then calmly said “It’s nothing to worry about, everything will be OK.” and went back to what she was doing. I then recorded this video.

As you may be aware, Pennsylvania is a swing state. Hopefully this is just a dysfunctional machine and his vote was count properly but it certainly raises alarms that this could be a case of ballot tampering if the machine was purposefully programmed to do this. He posted the video on Reddit and as a result has been contacted by multiple media outlets.

UPDATE: Here’s MSNBC’s coverage and the Huffington Post’s coverage.

About Ericka M. Johnson

As a lover of science and reason, Ericka M. Johnson has an affinity for evolutionary biology and is the president of Seattle Atheists. She revels in any opportunity for a thoughtful debate on the meaning of life, the universe, and everything (especially over a pint.) Follow her on twitter @ErickaMJohnson

  • Richard Wade
  • WoodwindsRock

    Haven’t I seen this in The Simpsons before?

  • Russian Alex

    As a programmer, “malfunctioning” my ass.

  • A3Kr0n

    WoodwindsRock, yes.  Almost the same thing happened four years ago!

  • Quintin van Zuijlen

    One reason why I’m glad voting machines were banned over here.

  • WildRumpus67

    Well… if Obama is a Muslim Socialist, then aren’t the good Christian Republicans simply fulfilling the will of God by cheating their way into power?

    Here’s a nice list of Voter Irregularities:

  • Stev84

    if (Item.Selected == Obama)
         Item.Selected = Romney;

  • Russian Alex

     Seriously, though, it would be interesting to look at the source code.

  • machintelligence

    They found one in Colorado doing the exact opposite, giving Romney votes to Obama. It is probably just a defective machine. I worry more about undetectable (by the voter) glitches.

  • roz77

    I guess I have to be that guy, but why is this on here? This isn’t even remotely connected to atheism or religion.

  • machintelligence

    It isn’t? Where have you been the last few months (or years)?

  • roz77

    The article doesn’t even mention Romney’s religion or his views on LGBT or women’s rights. If those were mentioned I would be fine with it. However, this is about a potentially defective voting machine. Hardly something I expect to see on an atheist blog.

  • Sailor

     People have a right to put up whatever they want on their blogs. It is their blog. If it upsets people they can always find another blog which pleases them more or start their own.

  • The Captain

    {Sigh}. Look I expected to see this on that trash the Huff post, and I almost guarantee I’m more liberal than most of you… but one video posted on Reddit does not a conspiracy make. Not saying I trust the digital machines fully, but come on aren’t we supposed to be skeptics here? I think we need a bit more evidence before we start the election stealing meme on skeptic sites.

  • Annika Raaen

    Considering that the Republican Party has been hijacked by crooked religious zealots, I’d say this is incredibly relevant to this blog.

  • roz77

    I’m not saying I’m going to stop reading this blog, I really enjoy it. I just don’t want to see this turn into a place with political that don’t even mention religion or things connected to religion.

  • roz77

    Yea but this article doesn’t even mention religious zealots. This is literally just a piece about politics. It’s not a piece about politics and religion, or politics and LGBT rights, or politics and women’s rights, all of which I would be fine with, because they’re connected with religion. This isn’t at all, it’s just a video of a single voter machine that is malfunctioning.

  • Ernest Valdemar

    I don’t see how this can be a single malfunctioning machine. If my computer hardware goes bad, it doesn’t suddenly start selecting Cancel every time I click OK. Hardware/software doesn’t work like that. 

    OTOH, the problem wasn’t occurring across all machines, just the one.

    OTOOH, there are, “out there,” documented hacks for electronic voting machines. I wouldn’t rule out a rogue hacker/troll who voted at that particular machine earlier in the day and compromised that particular machine.  IIRC, all you need is a thumb drive and the proper lock pick.

  • Annika Raaen

    I totally see what you’re saying, and agree for the most part. I think the religious connection is implied. It seems that for most of the atheists out there, the Republican party equals crazy religious people. That might not be right or fair…but it seems to be the prevailing impression I get. Ah well. It really isn’t worth arguing over is it? ;) hehe

  • Annika Raaen

    Thank the FSM that Oregon has mail in ballots. Obviously, that doesn’t stop tampering:

    …but still…

  • brianmacker

    The article does not say the Romney Family owns the machine.

  • Vanadise

    Ugh.  Capitalizing variable names?  No brackets around single-line if clauses?  You can tell the code was written by a Romney supporter.

  • Stev84

    I’ll give you the variable thing, but you maybe haven’t worked in C#. Capitalizing method names is one of its great features.

    Anyways, this was simply some pseudo-code. I assure you that my real code looks a bit better :p

  • The Other Weirdo

     A pedantic programming style complaint when you don’t even know the language being used? Srsly? It could even be pseudo-code.

  • The Other Weirdo

     If these are touchscreens, it could be out calibration. Not every hardware failure leads to a kernel panic and a shutdown.

  • Vanadise

    Programming language of choice (or even pseudocode) is irrelevant when it comes to writing clean code.  I can’t respect any programming language where somebody describes capitalizing method names as a “feature” of it.

    And I’m being facetious, here.

  • Mairianna

    I went to vote at my elementary school in the morning before work, thinking it wouldn’t take too long.  My precinct isn’t very big and it is mostly African-American and Democrat.  

    I got in my precinct check in line with about 15 people in front of me.   Along side the wall of the school gymnasium was a table for provisional ballots.  My line barely moved for 1/2 hour, but when it DID, most of the folks were being sent to the provisional ballot table.
    Our State Secretary just got a judgment passed that he doesn’t necessarily have to count provisional ballots AND a few weeks ago, the state conveniently lost 30,000 registrations! 

    An hour and 15 minutes later, I was finally out.  My registration wasn’t an issue, but I emailed my congresswoman as soon as I got to work to let her know what happened.